Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jalen Rose vs. Grant Hill: What Does It Mean to be an Uncle Tom?


by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

( As a black man who is roughly the same age as Grant Hill and Jalen Rose, I watched the back and forth between these two great warriors with extreme curiosity.  During the ESPN documentary about the Fab Five, Jalen went out of his way to say that at the time, he felt Duke to be a school that only recruits Uncle Toms.  I found the comment to be interesting and reflective of Jalen’s very candid nature.  It is his honesty, insight and mental toughness that has led me to respect Jalen Rose more as the years have gone by.  In other words, he’s not just another dumb jock, and he seems to have a tremendous amount of integrity.

Grant Hill is also not a dumb jock.  The Duke University grad has gone on to have an amazing NBA career and to become an upstanding American citizen.  You’ve never heard crazy stories about Grant or Jalen getting shot in the club, going broke, getting arrested or having a dozen anonymous  baby’s mamas.  They’ve both lived good lives and should certainly be friends.

But Jalen’s “Uncle Tom” comment seems to have struck a chord with Grant Hill.  In response to Jalen’s interesting remarks, Grant went to the New York Times to express his concerns about what Jalen said.  Grant’s emotional reaction opens the debate about what it means for a black man to be an Uncle Tom.  We have to even wonder if such a thing exists.

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